United travel to the Etihad on Monday night in what Sky are dubbing ‘unmissable’. If you’re honest, whatever side of the divide you fall on, you couldn’t really argue with Gary Neville’s new employers. Both teams know what they have to do and both know, for whatever is said about tricky trips away to Newcastle for City and Sunderland for United, Monday night could well decide the title. A positive result either way will, you can be sure, go a long way to securing the title.
United have been enjoying themselves in the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel, Wales, this weekend and took in the 4-4 draw between Swansea and Wolves at Swansea’s Liberty stadium. Latest noises coming from the camp suggest that there aren’t any major injury worries apart from long term absentees Vidic, Fletcher, Anderson and co.
David de Gea will start in goal and look to banish any nightmares of the now infamous 6-1 earlier in the season. Make no mistake, however, he did very little wrong that day and, in fact, barring a few obvious howlers very early into his United career, he’s done very little wrong all season. I’ve been mightily impressed with how he’s handled his rocky start and emerged as one of the finest young ‘keepers in Europe. When you consider how so many ‘keepers tried and failed to replace Schmeichel over a number of years for such a young man to fill Van der Saar’s gloves so admirably is testament to his character and ability.
Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are guaranteed to start, presuming they are fit. Right back, however, will be something that Ferguson will have to think long and hard about. Rafael is going a long way to making the right back slot his own and works wonderfully well, going forward, with Valencia. He still, however, is prone to lapses of concentration in defence and was at fault for, at the very least, Everton’s equalising goal on last weekend. Phil Jones or Chris Smalling would offer a more sound option in defence but will Ferguson want to have a tight back four stronger in defence or would he rather stick with the attacking, if sometimes weak defensively, Rafael? Whilst a game isn’t won or lost at right back selection there could go a long way to telling us how United will approach the game.
Midfield could also throw up some difficult decisions for Ferguson. If this wasn’t such a huge game I’d be pretty sure that the midfield would consist of a two from the three of Carrick, Scholes or Giggs. With City likely to flood their midfield I wonder if, this time all three will play in the middle? If three do play across the middle then a fit again Park may come into consideration as Ferguson is a big admirer of his big-game form. Out wide, regardless of how many play in the middle, I’m fully expecting to see, likely club player of the year, Valencia, out right and last season’s club player of the year, Nani, out left.
Up front will depend on whether or not Ferguson picks two or three in the middle of midfield. If he goes with two then Rooney could be asked to run the attack alone. However, Ferguson has been singing the praises of the partnership struck up by Rooney and Welbeck over recent weeks so the pair could start together as Ferguson goes for 4-4-2 in search of goals.
I’ll start with the bleeding obvious – if City win they go top, level on points and with a superior goal difference. A draw would mean United stay top needing four points from their remaining two games to secure the title. In fact, a draw followed by a win against Swansea and City dropping points in the North East would secure the title. A United win would effectively seal the title as it would leave them needing only one more point from their last two games.
- City have failed to score in their previous three league home games against United.
- City have won 21 of their last 22 home fixtures in the top division and are unbeaten in their previous 27.
- Aguero and the man who’d never play for City again have contributed with 12 of the last 15 goals scored by City.
- Rooney has scored 16 times in his last 14 games for United.
- United have yet to win a league game after conceding the first goal this season.
After writing those match facts I’m becoming increasingly worried. However, I was worried when we went there for the FA Cup fixture. Honestly, I don’t see the same result, a United victory, occuring on Monday. I do, however, hope that United’s experience and City’s nerves contribute enough to result in a draw. As good as they are going forward, I do think United can get at them, especially down the flanks, and fancy United to nick a score draw. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be unmissable.
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